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Lismore Flood Recovery: “Standing on Holy Ground”

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The following is a first-hand reflection from Mission Services of the Diocese of Lismore Catholic Schools Office. We thank them for their contribution and sharing during Laudato Si’ Week

Standing on Holy Ground

“Human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself.” (LS 66).  

These relationships have been challenged, broken and questioned since the floods across the Lismore Diocese, which have left many with nothing but the clothes they were standing in.  These relationships continue to be challenged but are all paramount in the recovery as we seek to listen to both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.  

In the opening paragraphs of Laudato Si’ Pope Francis states, “Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.” (LS 19) There has been much suffering and there is much we can do.

When we pause to sit with and listen to friends, family, colleagues or strangers on the street across the Diocese, it is unusual not to hear of the immense toll the floods have taken on people, their daily lives, their livelihoods, their relationships and their wonderings about the future.  Listening and nurturing these relationships is fundamental to recovery and caring for our common home.

One colleague shared her experience of relationship building.

I opened the cupboard. My shoulders sank. So too did my heart. Mud. Black river mud mixed with what? I didn’t know and if I’m honest didn’t want to know. What I did know is that I wanted to walk away. To shake the mud off my boots and to hightail it out of there. But, I couldn’t and I didn’t. It sure didn’t feel like it but somehow I knew this was holy ground.

It was five days after the floodwaters had decimated parts of town. I had been invited into Marley’s home. I was a lady with a sudsy bucket and that was just what she needed and wanted. She had a plan to have two clean rooms by the end of the day. Her front room and her kitchen. It was dirty work. Filthy to be honest. As I set to work, a thousand thoughts flying through my head I concentrated on the task at hand, guided by a young woman who told me what she needed. This was not her first flood and sadly probably not her last. At times we worked together, at times I was alone. We navigated the furniture and her belongings. When she passed through or set to work beside me, she lamented at her late Nan’s broken apple pie dish which lay strewn on the floor. She shared saved photographs of Nan, her mum and aunt and generally shared her experiences.

Image: A person standing on concrete covered with mud, muddy boots and clothing with the bible text written on the side: Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. Exodus 3:5

Ordinarily, our paths would never have crossed. Circumstances brought us together and as we quietly cleaned, I realised I was on holy ground. I had, as Br Damien Price calls it, come as guest. A guest in Marley’s home, her pain, her hope and her life. In the silence, in the sudsy bucket, in the quiet chatter and in the removal of mud there was something so much deeper that I still find hard to put into words. It was both an honour and a privilege, to kneel in front of her kitchen cupboards, to carefully remove their contents, scoop out the mud and clean them.

Proclaim Lismore Wildfire is the Diocesan Worship Team and its members were also impacted by the floods. In response to the devastating flooding, Wildfire composed a song to invite Jesus into this difficult time. Moments reminds us to lean on God when our world is turned upside down, and to remember that God is in these challenges with us. This song is our prayer of solidarity as we come together as a Diocese to support each other, and trust that God will heal our pain and sorrow.  More music by Wildfire can be found via Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube.

Moments – Proclaim Lismore Wildfire
A song written by Lismore youth after their experience with floods and fires.

Many Catholic schools in the Diocese of Lismore have suffered catastrophic damage and severe hardship as a result of the floods with three schools experiencing complete inundation in every learning and play space and nine other Catholic schools experiencing devastating damage to more than half the school. These communities have shown great resilience in the face of these challenges and continue to provide a safe and loving place of learning and community for their students and families. In many cases this is happening on different campuses and in temporary makeshift school venues. 

Lismore Flood Appeal 

If you would like to support those living in the Lismore Diocese, please use the details below. Should you wish your donation to be designated to support flood-affected schools, please indicate this in your donation reference.

BSB: 037-889  |  Account No: 1061 5829  |  Account Name: DOL Flood Appeal

To donate from other countries please use this PayPal link. This link can also be used within Australia.

Mission Services 

Diocese of Lismore Catholic Schools